A federal judge ruled Tuesday, Sept. 26, that Black Lives Matter cannot be sued, dismissing a case against the social justice group and an activist filed by an officer was who injured in protests after the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling in July 2016.
Black Lives Matter is a social movement, not an entity, Louisiana Judge Brian A. Jackson wrote in his ruling. Therefore, “all claims against ‘Black Lives Matter’ must be dismissed because social movements lack the capacity to be sued.”
The unidentified Baton Rouge, La. officer who filed the case last year claimed he was badly injured when a hurled rock or piece of concrete hit him in the face as he was responding to demonstrations sparked by Sterling’s death. Baltimore-based BLM activist DeRay Mckesson, who’s also named in the officer’s complaint, was one of nearly 200 protesters arrested that night.
The injured officer accused Mckesson of inciting violence on behalf of BLM and was therefore liable for his injuries. He also claimed the activist was in charge of leading the demonstration and should’ve known it would turn violent.
Jackson ruled in McKesson’s favor, however, saying he was exercising his constitutional right to protest and could not be held responsible for the behavior of other protesters.
“All of this highlights the need for deep, deep changes in the city of Baton Rouge,” Mckesson told CNN this week. “It is not a new tactic that people try to use the courts to silence activists and organizers.”
“I am happy that the judge dismissed the lawsuit and understood I had no part in the officer’s injuries,” he added.
In July, another unnamed officer sued BLM after he was injured during a police ambush in Baton Rouge that left three officers dead last year. That officer, who said he was left “permanently disabled” after being shot multiple times, accused Mckesson and two other prominent BLM activists of inciting and encouraging violence at nationwide protests. Moreover, he argued BLM’s “anti-police” rhetoric is what spurred suspect Gavin Long, 29, to open fire on police.
Judge Jackson is overseeing that case, too, according to CNN.
The Justice Department announced earlier this year that no federal charges would be brought against the officers who shot and killed Sterling.